5 remarkable reptiles at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Boba the snake on the back of Brianna's neck
Have you ever heard of a snuggly snake? How about a ticklish tortoise? Well, the Sanctuary is full of surprises.
By Sarah Thornton

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary hosts all sorts of furry friends — even quite a few with feathers. But did you know that pets with scales and shells also call the Sanctuary their home-between-homes?

The staff at Wild Friends, Best Friends’ state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, is trained to take care of all sorts of animals. The rehab team cares for orphaned and injured wildlife until they are ready to be released. And it also provides safety, enrichment and ongoing care for those who cannot return to the wild.

With their extensive knowledge of a wide range of animals, Wild Friends caregivers also look after pets requiring more specialized care, such as reptiles. Like the Sanctuary’s cats and dogs, these snakes, lizards and turtles lost their homes and needed a helping hand, so that’s just what they’re getting here in the canyon until they go on to new homes.

Here's a spotlight (and also a UV light for those who thrive under them) on some of our favorite scaley sidekicks.

Silly sliders: Tommy Sweet Cheeks and Kyle
Photo by Molly Wald

While Kyle may still be working on coming out of his shell (metaphorically, of course), Tommy Sweet Cheeks is almost old enough to vote and more than happy to be the center of attention. He’s always keeping a close eye on caregivers and visitors as they move around his trough, hoping someone will stop by with a treat. Kyle prefers to watch out for incoming snacks from the safety of his tunnel but he’s getting braver every day.

These turtles are ready to spend the next several decades with some poolside pampering. Red-eared sliders can live as long as 70 years with the right care.

The snuggly snake: Boba
Photo by Molly Wald

Have you heard of a snake who likes to snuggle? Well, we’d be happy to introduce you to one: Meet Boba, the ball python. His personality is decidedly more dog-like than one may expect. “He’s my buddy, he’s my pal,” says Brianna Vlach, Wild Friends supervisor. “He’s very comfortable around people, super sweet and very curious.” Boba likes to hang out on Brianna’s shoulders and greet tours or climb around the windows if there’s no crowd to admire him (But really, please do admire him.)

At four feet long, Boba’s not done growing yet. He could have another two to go.

Blending in while standing out: Vincent
Photo by Molly Wald

Vincent the veiled chameleon spends his days relaxing in his very own oasis. His tall, arboreal enclosure is kept humid and misty, just the way he likes it. And if having his own tropical paradise in the middle of the desert wasn’t enough, he’s decided he prefers having his meals hand-fed to him by his doting caregivers. Otherwise, he’s quite content to just be watched from a distance by his adoring fans.

Feisty friend: Amber
Photo by Molly Wald

Amber may be a common boa, but we think she’s pretty special. When she first arrived at the Sanctuary, Amber was stressed about all the people around her, and she tried to avoid or scare away anyone who came near. But with patience and care from her foster person, she’s grown comfortable with gentle handling, which makes cleaning and mealtime much less stressful for her and everyone else involved. And that’s important considering she could grow to be a little more than a handful at eight feet long.

Slow and steady: Thar
Photo by Molly Wald

Thar was always the most demure of the Mojave desert tortoises at Wild Friends, but when caregivers noticed him acting even more withdrawn, they got him checked out immediately. After veterinarians found (and a specialist removed) the large bladder stone he had been growing, Thar’s shy personality became a thing of the past.

Now, he goes looking for attention, climbing into his human friends’ laps and leaning hard into shell-scratches. He’s never felt so relieved.

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